Baseball Coach Saves Teen In Armed Carjacking After Wrestling Weapon Away From Gunman
A baseball coach is being lauded as a hero after he bravely saved a California teen from being kidnapped during an armed carjacking.
The coach, identified by NBC San Diego as Dylan Graham, 28, was helping a 16-year-old boy practice for upcoming baseball tryouts at Hickman Field in Kearny Mesa on December 23 about 10 a.m. when a man approached the pair asking for a cigarette, police said.
The man pulled out a gun and forced them into Graham's Jeep, ordering them to drive.
With the coach in the driver’s seat and the boy in the passenger’s seat, the man ordered them to drive to Ramona, saying that he would take the coach's money and his car, but first he needed to get to his destination, cops said.
During the drive, the man took the coach's iPhone and pretended to use the phone to confirm the address with someone else, making the coach and teen think he had others assisting him, police said.
As the coach drove, he began to fear that the suspect planned to take them somewhere and kill them, so he decided to try to grab the gun, officials said.
As Graham made his way toward the suspect’s initial desired location, which was about 28 miles away from where they were abducted, he reportedly lunged at the gunman, who had begun smoking in the back seat, and grabbed his weapon.
Two shots were fired into the roof of the Jeep, which had veered off the road during the struggle and crashed into another vehicle, police said. Graham told the boy to run as he held the suspect at gunpoint.
The teen found another motorist on the road and asked for help, police said. That driver let the boy into their car and they drove to the San Diego Sheriff's Department for help.
The coach and the carjacker also got out of the SUV and the coach ran to a different passing vehicle for help.
As he did that, Graham saw that the suspect was coming toward him. "The adult victim, fearing for his life, shot at the suspect's feet twice," police said.
The man ran away and then ran up to another stopped car, which was being driven by an elderly woman, police said. He got in, told the woman he had a gun and demanded she drive, officials said.
She drove to Main Street in Ramona and he told her to stop the car and get out. He drove off in her car, which was found by SDPD detectives parked at Barona Casino.
Investigators viewed video surveillance at the casino and identified the suspect as 45-year-old Ira Stringer, who was later arrested after allegedly leading officers on a high-speed chase following the robbery of two businesses at gunpoint.
Police said Stringer allegedly robbed an AM/PM in Lemon Grove on December 26 at 9 p.m., when he pointed a shotgun at the clerk and demanded he fill up his vehicle's gas tank. He allegedly threatened to kill the clerk if he did not do what he was told, police said.
At 11:50 p.m. that night, Stringer also allegedly robbed a Circle K in the city of Orange, officials said.
He pointed a shotgun at three people in the store, ordered a clerk to put money on his gas pump, made a customer pump his gas and demanded a pack of cigarettes, authorities said.
Stringer allegedly fled the store and was followed by a security guard, who alerted police.
"Stringer led police on a high speed pursuit from Orange to the City of Riverside where spike strips were deployed by CHP after the 45 mile pursuit," police said in a news release. "The spike strips successfully disabled Stringer's vehicle."
After negotiating for approximately two hours, Stringer threw the shotgun from the vehicle and was arrested, police said.
Stringer was in custody Monday in Orange County for the robbery in Orange and other related charges. It was not immediately clear if he had an attorney or if he had entered a plea.